Sunday, 10 November 2013

What the Vegan!

16:38:00 Posted by Shaun Brookes , , , , 1 comment

I have in my hand a copy of the very first Vegan Times. Dated November 1944 it is the first instance in which Donald Watson and his associates first began to use the term Vegan- as a contraction of the word vegetarian.
Sixty five years later, I would make the switch myself. Having gorged myself to the morbidly obese section of an NHS wallchart, something had to give, although I never intended becoming vegan. I never intended even to stick at vegetarianism but, as with all good journeys, I couldn’t just forget things I had found along the way. My parents assumed it was an eating disorder. I still get quips from members of the family when we gather for occasions but, to steal a phrase from a real disorder: Nothing actually tastes as good as vegan feels.
I had started out simply trying to cook my own meals, but with slightly healthier food. I decided that the processed gunge was doing me no good at all and so for a New Year challenge I opted to cook vegetarian for a month. That month, with all of its bacon cravings and skipped kebab shops was tough, I can’t lie, though I knew I could get through on my own convictions having navigated my way through Lent (in a chocolate shop) the year before.
As the month went on, I started to feel markedly better in myself. It sounds incredibly na├»ve having scoffed my way through most types of meat I had encountered for 23 years, but I didn’t actually realise just how reliant we were on animals in our diet. Today’s food isn’t the meat and two veg stuff of our ancestors. These days food has a peel top lid, a ring pull or a healthy ding to announce its arrival. There isn’t a quarter pound of cow arse in your burger and yet surprisingly, there is a healthy measure of it in your soft drink. Go figure.
It was only through reading the labels and finding more and more information about the ingredients in my food that I began to see the huge amount of additives involved in the process. I had made the switch subconsciously and not even realised it. By the time I had finished January, I’d survived. I actually felt a satisfaction in the achievement- leading me to ask if I could continue as I was and reduce the need to kill the animals even further. Nobody who knew eighteen stone me would have believed it.  
I had what Paul McCartney described as ‘a kind of epiphany’. The realisation that I could go on to live without the need for any suffering or slaughter was a game changer. I didn’t know where the eggs in my food came from because logically, I hadn’t even realised they were in all those packets. I didn’t know how healthy the cows were because I’d never even considered emailing Walkers to ask about their salt and vinegar crisps (I know, whey?).  What I did know was that the risk wasn’t worth it. I wouldn’t eat a scraggy looking cow or chicken so why should I buy eggs from the same dodgy farmer. I took it as a challenge  to push it that extra bit further and abandon these products completely- starting with just one day a week, my Vegan Thursdays.
I did two, having so much left over on the second week that it continued into Friday and Saturday and here we are four years later. In all of that time I have missed meat, of course I have, but I haven’t necessarily craved it.
I can still taste the kangaroo I had on holiday, the venison I ate in that fancy restaurant, the steak on my birthday but, with the understanding that I am making this conscious choice each time I choose something different on the menu, I can imagine each of the little buggers fleeing over the abattoir fence to live another day.
That is a hell of a liberating experience, let me tell you. It is worth not eating proper melty cheese for. It is worth not eating shop bought cakes for. It is certainly worth not eating meat for.
To conclude then, I’ll ask you all to plan one completely vegetarian day next time you go shopping. Have your coffee black, jam on your toast, your lunchtime jacket potato topped with salad & beans instead of cheese and for dinner, any of a thousand different vegetable curries soups or stews.
Seems so easy, yes? Compared to what you could have killed, guilt free is a bloody good feeling before bedtime, just trust me on this.  

Thanks for reading,
S ;)